From the start, the Centre for Fine Arts was a project for many art disciplines. Horta’s architectural gem, with a sophisticated cultural infrastructure, housed a variety of art forms: classical and new music, early and contemporary art, photography, theatre, dance, applied arts and soon also film.
The many exhibitions initiated an intense museum activity even though its promoters found that the Centre should never become a ‘star museum’.
“The cultural house had to continue to function as a laboratory and remove barriers between the disciplines.”
The first year of operation in 1928 set the tone for later artistic activities. From its founding, the directors of the Centre for Fine Arts adhered to a distinctly international viewpoint. From the outset, artistic expression from Belgium was embedded in an international context. The list of Belgian and foreign composers, musicians, orchestras, ensembles, artists, museum collections, performing artists, directors, actors and writers who appeared in the golden years of the Centre for Fine Arts is impressive.
Here is a small selection of the programme under the first and – until the appointment of Paul Dujardin in 2002 – only general director Charles Leirens. In 1928, the Centre for Fine Arts paid tribute to Jacob Smits, Contemporary Belgian Painting (including Brusselmans, Schirren, Servaes and Spilliaert), held retrospective exhibitions of James Ensor and Gustave Van de Woestyne as well as presentations of early and modern Russian art, Spanish and Polish art, two exhibitions of modern French art, an exhibition on Netherlandish still-lifes, a monographic exhibition dedicated to Emile Bourdelle and the 1st International Photography Exhibition. Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes inaugurated the central exhibition room/hall, the Pro Arte ensemble played for the opening of the Chamber Music Room and Cesar Franck and Peter Benoit were on the programme for the opening concert in the Henry Le Boeuf Hall.
In 1929–1930 Prokofiev himself played his Third Piano Concerto, Hindemith and Milhaud conducted concerts, Stravinsky performed at a Stravinsky festival, Cocteau performed in his own Orphée, and Buñuel’s film Un chien andalou caused a scandal.